Riga, 22 October 2010, the Saeima building
Honourable President of the Baltic Assembly,
Esteemed President of the Riigikogu,
Esteemed Speaker of the Seimas,
Esteemed members of the Baltic Council of Ministers,
Esteemed members of the Baltic Assembly,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is my genuine pleasure to welcome the participants of the 29th Session of the Baltic Assembly, members of the Baltic Council of Ministers, as well as cooperation partners from Benelux and Nordic countries, to the building of the Saeima of the Republic of Latvia.
This is the 4th Session of the Baltic Assembly in whose opening I have the honour to participate as the Speaker of the Saeima. I have always enjoyed participating in these sessions because I highly value the contribution of the Baltic Assembly in facilitating cooperation among the Baltic States. The Baltic Assembly was one of the first cooperation organisations of the Baltic States which was founded soon after the restoration of independence. Next year we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Baltic Assembly. During these years, the Assembly has served as a forum for discussions and exchange of experience; it has also sought solutions and offered recommendations for improving security, economic growth, and closer cooperation of the Baltic States. Healthy competition and coordination of joint efforts have been the keys to our success during the 1990’s because they enabled us to strengthen a democratic state administration and to establish a basis for further development of our countries; it has also helped us during the past decade in our quest for membership in the EU and NATO.
Currently, cooperation among the Baltic States can be characterised by political support, close economic integration, and practical cooperation. Therefore, I would like to particularly highlight one of the items on the agenda of this Session, namely, joint health-care projects in the Baltic States. This is an example of how an idea which is conceived in the Baltic Assembly can be transformed into real recommendations and practical results that will benefit all inhabitants of our countries. I wish success to the established task force, and I urge the Baltic Assembly to keep this item on future agendas.
In my opinion, it is also important to improve the existing close cooperation between the Baltic States and Nordic countries. Upon Latvia’s initiative, cooperation between the Baltic States and the Nordic countries was assessed; as a result, this year a report was drafted by independent experts. It revealed numerous areas where closer cooperation among the NB8 countries would be logical, feasible and mutually beneficial. In my opinion, the task of the Baltic Assembly as an interparliamentary assembly is to ensure political oversight of the development of this regional cooperation.
Esteemed members of the Baltic Assembly,
When we met the last time in Vilnius, our attention was focussed mainly on the complex economic situation in the region. It was a time when the economic and financial crisis had hit hard all of the Baltic States, especially Latvia. I am glad that today, when we have come together once again, we can be cautiously optimistic. Macroeconomic data indicate the signs of economic stabilisation. By making hard decisions and implementing strict fiscal discipline, our country has managed to increase the volume of export, to achieve the second highest increase in industrial production in the EU, and to gradually decrease the unemployment level. Three weeks ago in general elections, the people of Latvia voted in favour of continuing the work undertaken to stabilise the economy; therefore, the new convocation of the Saeima and the new government will have to stay the course.
This year the Session of the Baltic Assembly is being held in the Plenary Chamber of the Latvian parliament. In 10 days, the first sitting of the newly elected 10th Saeima will convene in this Chamber. I would like to thank Mrs. Ērika Zommere, chairperson of the Latvian delegation to the Baltic Assembly during the current 9th convocation of the Saeima, as well as other members of Latvian delegation, for their diligence and fervour in developing dynamic and pragmatic interparliamentary cooperation without losing its main value – the spirit of Baltic unity. I am certain that ideas which were born and work which was started during these years will continue and thus will ensure continuity of the efforts that have been made during these 4 years.
In conclusion, I would like to thank the Presidium of the Baltic Assembly, the Secretariat of the Baltic Assembly, and all colleagues for their contribution; I would also like to wish success to the Estonian parliament, which will assume the presidency of the Baltic Assembly in the upcoming year!
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